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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


LEVIN, Nathaniel William

(1819–1903); William Hort (1845–93).

Merchants and public benefactors.

A new biography of Levin, Nathaniel William appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

A new biography of Levin, William Hort appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

N. W. Levin was born in London on 24 May 1819, son of a Jewish merchant. He arrived at Port Nicholson on 30 May 1841 and commenced trading in Wellington on 2 August in the same year under the style of “Levin & Co.”. He took an active part in the early social life of the colony, was prominent in the Jewish community, and was a foundation member of many notable public institutions. He devoted unremitting attention to his business interests, and in June 1862 entered a partnership with C. J. Pharazyn and W. W. Johnston, which terminated in 1868. On 25 June 1869 Levin was appointed to the Legislative Council, resigning on 11 January 1871, when he decided to settle in London. There he became a partner of Redfern, Alexander, and Co. He retired from business in January 1882, and remained in London until his death on 30 April 1903.


Levin married, on 31 January 1844, Jessie, daughter of Abraham Hort and sister of Margaret, wife of Sir F. D. Bell. To them was born, on 7 August 1845, William Hort, who, in 1868, succeeded his father in the firm of Levin and Co.

William Hort Levin (1845–93) (“Willie”) took over a thriving business and was thus able to devote much of his time to public services. He married, on 20 March 1876, Amy, daughter of James Edward FitzGerald. He was elected to the House of Representatives for Wellington City on 5 September 1879, and for Thorndon, 9 December 1881, but resigned owing to ill health on 23 March 1884. During his term he piloted through the House the Bill establishing the Wellington Harbour Board, of which he subsequently became first chairman (1880–83). He served on the Wellington City Council, and was president or an office bearer of many local public, sporting, and cultural bodies. His public benefactions included £1,000 to form the nucleus of a public library, recreation facilities for the Workingmen's Club, and a gift to help establish the Home for the Aged and Needy (1888).

When he died at his home in Tinakori Road on 15 September 1893, most business firms in the city closed to mourn him, Parliament passed condolences, and the Governor, Lord Glasgow, cancelled his engagements as a mark of respect.

The Levins, father and son, were greatly respected not merely on account of their large charitable endowments, but more especially because they were always ready to give generously to needy causes.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

Levin & Co., 1841–1941, Gore, R. (1956); Evening Post, 15 Sep 1893 (Obit). The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Goldman, L. M. (1958).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.